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Muslim leaders speak out

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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For example, Quran tells if you are attacked you have the right to defend yourself. It doesn't say you have the right to kill. If you speak to a large group of people, to a country that has a ruler, that has a system, that is respected by countries around the world, like America, the second right in our Constitution is the right to bear arms. (It's interpretation.) And, like everything, it's there for a reason. You can't say America is a violent country. But it needs someone who is not biased, who understands the circumstances, and is able to explain it, where there may be some disagreements, but there is always a middle ground.

I understand that from an early age you memorized it completely. Is that an unusual accomplishment, or one that all imams must do? How long is it, to memorize? What is an imam, versus a sheik, or an ayatollah, or an allamah, or a mufti? You are an imam and a sheik?

Yes. No – people do it. It's very common. And that's part of our preservation for the Quran. We do completely memorize the book from cover to cover. It took me four years. But I wasn't consistent. I was a kid. I was like 11. But it was just like afternoon classes, where my dad would take us off the streets for like an hour. It's not like, this guy has a good imam future. It has nothing to do with that. A lot of kids memorize the Quran. A lot of kids. Here, we have at least 30, 40. It wasn't like, 'Oh, we're not going to guard him at basketball, he's too special.' That wasn't the case.

An ayatollah is in the Shia tradition, it's more of their man of reference that they completely submit to – his ideologies, his opinions, his schools of thought. For imam, sheik, that goes back to the culture, the tradition. Some people just call people imam, sheiks. And mufti also goes back to the age and the culture. They're all words that have the same meaning.

I look at myself as just Mohamed, a normal person.

How does your congregation look at you?

Both. Mohamed and Imam. It's a scholar, a leader, because imam comes from the word "leadership."

Although the Quran is considered the sacred scriptures dating back to the 7th Century with the Prophet Muhammad and the Word of God, are there various interpretations of the Quran?

There are (different interpretations). In the last three months I have been part of interfaith events, and even the English interpretation is very poor. I had never read the Quran with this English interpretation – I just started a month and a half ago. Just trying to realize how many people are misled with all these interpretations that add more words. I find it troubling. It's done by Muslim scholars, and they're doing it to add more clarity.

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